A Winter’s Day at Culzean

A beautiful Scottish winter’s day and we took the chance to go down to Culzean where we scattered Ara’s (Joan’s Mum) seven years ago and Bill’s (Joan’s Dad) ashes fifteen years ago.

Photos follow below.

This bench by the walled garden is named in their honour.

Swan Pond… lots of families getting their kids out for a spell of winter sunshine…. and not a few dogs too!

The beach at Culzean looking to Ailsa Craig and to Arran… stunning views. Peaceful. The calming sound of the sea.




At the Bench (photo by Tatora!)

At the Bench (photo by Tatora!)



















Tatora and Beth take possession….






Adam Murphy – one of Time Magazine’s best of 2013!

One of Adam’s contracts as a freelance artist is to write/draw a weekly strip in the children’s comic ‘The Phoenix’ (click here )


This year Time Magazine listed it as 2nd best of the Top 10 Graphic Novels/Comics of 2013 .  Here’s the citation:

The Phoenix:  You can only get it as an iPad subscription in the States, but this weekly British series is aimed straight at 7-to-10-year-olds’ sweet spot: multiple, ongoing adventure and comedy serials, plus how-to-draw features, puzzles and banter from cartoon-animal editors Tabs Inkspot and Bruno Barker. It’s a beautifully executed cluster of variations on the classic Euro-comics tradition, crafted with obvious affection for kids and their parents. Best feature: “Corpse Talk,” in which Adam Murphy interviews the corpses of historical figures from Boudicca to Nikola Tesla.

You’ll get a flavour of Corpse Talk here  or read about Albert Einstein here.

I’m really pleased for Adam.  He took a lot of risks to pursue his dream as a comic artist and he’s worked incredibly hard.  It’s great to see that he’s beginning to get the recognition he deserves!!

PS I think The Phoenix is way better than the one that got the #1 spot!.. not that I am biased or anything…..

Weekend in London

London eye frames Big Ben from south end of Waterloo Bridge

Busy weekend in London.

I’m sitting on the delayed 12 noon service to Inverness, along with passengers from three other cancelled trains, as we make our way to Lincoln to avoid the damaged rail north of Newark (I’m all in favour of avoiding damaged rails, even if does delay my return to Stirling!).

Managed to hit lots of London experiences (including a severe hit on the wallet – a musical show (Singing In the Rain -don’t bother!), theatre (Hedda Gabbler – great staging, great acting), sport (Djokovic vs del Potro), foodie fun with friends (Tim’s suggestion of the Tokyo Diner Lisle Street – go if you ever get the chance), catching up with Beth, Matthew and friends in their Canonbury and Turnpike Lane flats, meeting up with an educational colleague in IofE and comparing the Scottish and English educational trajectories, sitting on buses without moving, dazzled by the Saturday evening view, east and west, from Waterloo Bridge, gawping at the platform announcement board of King’s Cross, then running to board the train and secure a seat.

View from the bridge


Children’s author Margaret Mahy dies aged 76

Take a bit of time today to say ‘thank you’ for Margaret Mahy… and if you don’t know her work, and you like to read stories to your children, or to listen to them together, you’re in for a treat.  I particularly recommend The Chewing Gum Rescue – stories we listened to many times, on car journeys and at home.

She had a great imagination and, although the stories moved from the whimsical to the fantastic, they were never patronising, covered some great themes and always led to further thought and discussion.  It helps that she writes like a dream.

Our version was read by Richard Mitchley, whose melodic expressive voice enhanced the stories.  I am still in awe of the mystical and elegaic story about ‘The Griffins of Griffin Hill’.  Somewhere in its poetic resonant narrative, Mahy takes her readers/listeners to a new understanding of life.

Margaret Mahy.  Pay tribute.

“Troubled families”

“Troubled families”.  It’s an uncomfortable term, which can become a ‘label’ (though less of a label than ‘problem families’), but I’ve met a good few of these in my time as a headteacher – often, but not always, the ‘troubled’ child is responding to their ‘troubled’ family situation. However you define the concept, it’s illustrative not precise.  I was a bit sceptical of the news headlines about the recent report (click here) – another big headline political initiative stronger on rhetoric than action – but the report’s conclusion stimulated my thinking out an easy reaction:

“And it certainly isn’t the intention to try to establish what lies behind some of the darkest aspects of social and familial problems such as violence and sexual abuse. But what can be established, and perhaps the starkest message to take from these interviews, is the extent to which the problems of these families are linked and reinforcing. They accumulate across the life course, passed on from parents to their children across generations of the same family.
So this means that the traditional approach of services reaching individual family members, at crisis point or after, and trying to fix single issues such as ‘drug use’, ‘non-attendance at school’ or ‘domestic violence’ in these families is most often destined to fail. Their behaviours and problems can be properly understood only by looking at the full cycle – and the full family. This requires services who work with families to take the long view; of what happened to the parents as children and of what has happened to the children since birth. This may not be a pretty sight, and will lay bare the extent of the dysfunction that is accumulated in the lives of some of these families.
And at the most fundamental level is an absence of basic family functioning which must be restored (or created for the first time) if these families are to really change.
But these families are not beyond help and hope.” (p64)

“.. trying to fix single issues.. is most often destined to fail ..”  certainly very often true with children.

” .. these families are not beyond help and hope ..”     that’s also true:  a very important resource is the hope of a key family member, usually the mother, that change is possible.  If she can be supported to make good choices, to become more consistent, to access the right information and bring those insights into the family, what a difference that can make.

It will be interesting to see how this experiment develops – there has to be a better way than the often ill-co-ordinated reactive and inconsistent interventions of agencies based around the individuals of the family who come into their reach (school, police, social work, health visitors…).  However there is also no doubt that social structural factors – employment opportunities, community activities, school ethos, transport networks, gang culture – all play an important role.  For children, that is why the ‘community of the school’ can be so important.

Douglas Jewell

Just back from a journey to Chicheley near Newport Pagnell for the funeral of my Uncle Douglas, a fine man from that great generation, dwindling in number, who fought in the war and built a better future for their families.  He was described in a moving traditional funeral service as a ‘perfect gentleman’, something I would agree with 100%.   He and my Dad’s sister Pat made a great home together and showed a generous and hospitable way of living that was a great example.  Although it was a sad occasion, there was a lot to celebrate in Doug’s life and it was good to meet up with some of my cousins on my Dad’s side – an infrequent occurrence, as his sisters spread to so many different parts of the world.  Auntie Pat is well supported by a loving family.

Mary and Donald watch the world go by in Phnom Penh…

My cousin Mary and her husband Donald came to visit me in Phnom Penh this past weekend.  They had been on what sounded like a great cycling holiday in Lao with Red Spokes.  It’s the fifth tour they have done with them, which is quite a recommendation.   I really enjoyed seeing them, catching up on a bit of family stories and comparing notes on work and life choices.   They did a tuktuk tour of Phnom Penh on Saturday and we started Sunday with a swim at the VIP, my second home!

They also had a go at Dr Fish, something which I will not try again

Dr Fish at work

after 0.5 seconds with the soles of my feet being nibbled.  I believe people pay a lot of money for this in UK, but it’s free at the VIP… however, free or not, I won’t be doing it again, especially after picking up this story on the BBC website:  ‘Dr. Fish’.

We lounged about a bit on my verandah ate some really nice meals (thanks guys!), drank a few beers and sipped a very nice whisky they picked up for me in duty free!

M and D relaxing on verandah

On Sunday night,we strolled up by the river, enjoyed the antics of the aerobics groups (watching only – we did not join in!) and admired the balletic grace of the guys who kick the little feather shuttles around for entertainment:

Further upriver, we parked ourselves in a bar overlooking the riverside and watched the world go by.

Altogether a very relaxing and enjoyable weekend.  Mary and Donald are off to Siem Reap this week and then fly back home from Bangkok.   Bon Voyage and may you have many more great cycling holidays!